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Education students join Taskstream

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Forget those overstuffed three-ring binders, mangled posters and charts, and those packed portfolio carriers, Slippery Rock University education students are going high-tech.

"We are phasing in Taskstream," said Joanne Leight, associate professor of physical education and project organizer. "Students in some classes are already using the online system as a pilot test, but beginning next fall, it will be part of the curriculum for all incoming education majors."

Taskstream is an online data collection and storage system available to students, with the aggregate data available to faculty for use in such projects as accreditation reports. Students can use the system to create their four-year portfolio and then use appropriate segments when applying for a job.

"We have been using the system on a limited basis since Dr. [Kathleen] Strickland headed the College of Education," Leight said. "We have gradually expanded its use in the physical education program and will further expand its use next fall for all education majors."

"The system allows us to send surveys to our students and to their cooperating teachers when they are doing their student teaching. Students can use the system to store projects they have worked on as part of their teaching training, samples of their classroom work, and of their students' work when they are student teaching. They can upload lessons plans, unit plans and even videos of them teaching. They can include papers graded by their professors as well as other artifacts of their teaching/education career here at SRU," she said.

The online system is available by paid subscription, and Leight said requiring students to subscribe is similar to requiring them to purchase a textbook. Students can subscribe on a semester or four-year basis.

Leight will host a face-to-face workshop at 12:30 p.m., April 16, in Morrow Field House on how to use Taskstream as a follow up to her Dec. 4 online session. The online system is available by paid subscription, and Leight said requiring students to subscribe is similar to requiring them to purchase a textbook. Students can subscribe on a semester or four-year basis.

When an education student reaches the end of their studies, they can pick and choose from items stored on their online Taskstream file and download it to a CD.

"They can then tailor a CD to go with their resume or for a presentation during a job interview by picking items from their Taskstream CD," Leight said.

Currently, PE students are required to turn in the progress on their Taskstream portfolio three times.

"This gives us a chance to check it and offer advise along the way. We can give a student an assessment before they are ready to graduate," she said.

"This new online application simply replaces the old binders students once used. It keeps all of their information in one location and makes it better for both the student and their professors," she said.

A number of other Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education universities are also using the system, she said.

"The Pennsylvania Department of Education is rolling out a new evaluation system," said Keith Dils, dean of SRU's College of Education. "The new evaluation system that begins this fall for practicing teachers will be based on 50 percent observation of teaching and 50 percent on student outcomes with a portion coming via a portfolio. We think that helping our student understand there is a pretty good online system for preparing and keeping their portfolio in order is a good step."

"Keeping a portfolio of your work is a really good way to help that evaluation process," he said. "Keeping a portfolio helps students toward being professional and it allows them to show how they have developed and how their students have responded to their teaching."

"The system can help our students see the state required teaching standards and help them understand where they are meeting those standards, as well as where they might need work," Dils said. "Taskstream helps students see all of the standards in one big picture."

Taskstream is "cloud-based," allowing students to access the system from any Internet-connected computer. It allows students to collect artifacts, reflections, work with rubrics and establish learning outcomes, standards and competencies.

The system centralizes information that can then be used by a university in examining its assessments, accreditation and planning activities.